Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stephen Huyler: “Daughters of India” and other stories

Book launch at NID: Stephen Huyler speaks of “Shakti – The dominant female principle in India”

Prof M P Ranjan

Image 01: Stephen Huyler posing in the NID Library with five of his books, all well used by students and faculty, from the NID archives.

An impromptu display of books was created in the NID library to let the students know that the author of the five books on Indian art and culture was also speaking at the NID Auditorium on the evening of 4 March 2009. The occasion was the promotion of his new book “Daughters of India” across India and the stop at NID was one of many pit stops across many cities in India at the invitation of the publisher, Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad. I had met Stephen Huyler first in 1986 at a conference on Design of Crafts Museums at New Delhi, which was organized by the Crafts Council of India in October 1986. It was during this very conference that my book “Bamboo and Cane Crafts of Northeast India” was formally released at a simple function at the National Crafts Museum at Pragati Maidan and Stephen Huyler and all the other speakers of the conference were present at the release function where Shri P A Sangma, MP from Meghalaya was to chief guest. Stephen Huyler’s then new book had been released a year earlier and “Village India” (1985) still remains the only significant study on rural arts and crafts and lifestyles that cover the whole sub-continent between the covers of one richly illustrated book. This was followed up “Painted Prayers: Women’s Art in Village India” (1994), “Gift of Earth: Terracotas and Clay Sculptures of India” (1996), “Meeting Gods: Elements of Hindu Devotion” (1999) and now with his inspired offering, “Daughters of India: Art and Identity” (2008).

Image 02: Stephen Huyler featured in a series of events at NID. Exchange of books “Handmade in India” for “Daughters of India” between the Editors and the Author at the Gautam-Gira Square under the Big Tree at NID, followed by a visit to the NID Library and then onto the NID Auditorium for the book sale and talk by the Author.

Aditi and I got a signed copy of Stephen Huylers book for the man himself and we in turn gifted him an inscribed copy of Handmade in India in the presence of a small entourage of NID Faculty and Bipin Shah the Publisher from Mapin Publishing. A small audience had assembled to hear the talk, which was as usual a rich presentation of images and an impassioned sharing of experiences with the selected women of India who had been featured in his book. The stories were touching as well as inspiring. I introduced Stephen Huyler to the NID audience and spoke about his passion for travel and his long and winding journeys through India that started in 1971 and continues today, and each year he has been in India for three or four months each year, all the time with his camera and recording his experiences of living with the people wherever he went.

Image 03: Stephen Huyler at NID Auditorium on 4 March 2009 for his talk about his book “Daughters of India: Art and Identity”.

Stephen Huyler spoke at length about the book “Daughters of India: Art and Identities” and he illustrated his talk with images and stories of a few of the women featured in his book. The book profiles the lives and art of 20 women he had carefully chosen from a vast range of experiences so as to cover many facets of India across many regions and class barriers while he looked at women and their roles in the Indian sub-continent. Here at NID he chose to speak about Pushpa, who works as a sweeper at Mumbai Airport and lives in the slums next door, and this reminded all of us of the Oscar winning film “Slumdog Millionare” that has caught the attention of the West like none other before it. He also spoke of Indira from Jaisalmeer, Kusima from Badami in Karnataka, Sambai from Ludia in Kachchh in Gujarat and finally about Sonabai from Sarguja District in Chhattisgarh, all touching tales and full of appreciation of both their art and their character that was shaped by the many difficult experiences that they had related to him on his journeys across India.

Bibliographic Data: and link on Amazon and the publishers in the USA, The Abbervile Press and in India, Mapin Publishers Pvt Ltd.
Daughters of India: Art and Identity
Text and Photographs by
Stephen Huyler
Size 9’ x 11 11/16” – Cloth, 264 pages
250 illustrations in full colour
Published by Mapin Publishers Pvt Ltd
ISBN: 978-81-89995-01-0

Prof M P Ranjan

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